This summary provides a brief overview of the regulations requirements related to the first seven of more than 60 Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) anticipated to govern the discharge of wastewater, urban runoff and stormwater in the Los Angeles River, Ballona Creek, Dominguez Channel, and Santa Monica Bay watersheds in the City.
A Total Maximum Daily Load establishes a maximum limit for a specific pollutant that can be discharged into a water body without causing it to become impaired.
In 1998, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), along with other environmental groups, sued the EPA for failure to move forward in a timely manner with this program. This action resulted in a consent decree and a 13-year schedule to complete over 90 TMDLs, 67 affecting the City of Los Angeles. The TMDL Program is a top priority for both the State Board and the Regional Board.
0n August 1, 2002, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) approved the Trash TMDLs for both the Los Angeles River and Ballona Creek. TMDLs are the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet its water quality designation. In this case the pollutant being targeted is trash.
Thus far, seven TMDLs having an impact on the City have been adopted. The adoption process can be lengthy and involves the approval of the following entities in that order: Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board (LARWQCB), State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Office of Administrative Law, and the United Sates Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The following list identifies those adopted TMDLs with their effective dates:
TMDLs will be enforced through State and Federal discharge permits issued to the City such as the Municipal Stormwater National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) permit. Violation of these permits can expose the City to both civil and criminal liabilities. The City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works, Bureau of Sanitation is responsible for responding, with Los Angeles City Council concurrence, to draft TMDLs proposed by the Regional Board. They are also responsible for ensuring TMDLs are scientifically-based, negotiating with the regulatory agency regarding the final TMDL language, developing solutions that reduce pollutants to meet the TMDL limits, and collaborating with other City departments to develop a financial plan to pay for the cost of implementation including construction and operating costs. Finally, the Bureau of Sanitation is also responsible for implementing improvements to achieve compliance.
TMDL Implementation Costs
The cost to implement the TMDL program will be significant, to say the least. Implementation costs for the two trash TMDLs is estimated to total $120 million for a multitude of catch basin covers, catch basin inserts, and end-of-pipe full capture systems.
Dry Weather Bacteria compliance will cost an estimated $21 million through the construction of low-flow diversions of runoff to Hyperion Treatment Plant. One approach to compliance with the Wet Weather Bacteria TMDL is projected to cost nearly $400 million and entails capture and storage of stormwater during rainfall and diversion to Hyperion during low flow hours of the night.
The Bureau, however, is working toward developing a more environmentally beneficial Integrated Resources Plan for treating and reusing stormwater, despite the higher cost anticipated for this approach. At this time, the cost of compliance with the more than 60 remaining TMDLs to be developed is unknown.
EPA/Regional Board TMDL Strategy Document
In December 2001, the EPA and Regional Board released a preliminary draft of their new TMDL strategy. This document responds to many comments made by the regulated community that the consent decree approach of developing TMDLs on a singular one-by-one approach has been ineffective and has made planning for implementation a near impossible task.
This new plan proposes to work within the consent decree’s 13-year deadline but now bundles the TMDLs by watershed so that a more holistic approach will be provided and plans can be made for treatment or other implementation options that will address multiple pollutant concerns. Guidance for stakeholder-led TMDL development is also included. The Bureau supports this new approach. The Regional Board plans to move forward with this document and integrate it as part of the State’s Continuing Planning Process.